Mining and Mercury Services
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Sources of Mercury
Sources of Mercury
Mining has long been a source of mercury, either through the use of mercury in gold amalgamation or from environmental releases during the processing and treatment of ores containing high mercury levels.
Mercury in Sediments
Mercury entering aquatic environments has a high affinity for organic matter and suspended solids due to adsorption and coprecipitation processes. In the bottom sediments, the most important conversion is the bacterially mediated methylation of mercury involving the addition of methyl groups to the mercuric ion (Hg2+) by means of enzymatic activity.
Mercury in Organisms
Although both inorganic and organic forms of mercury can be taken up by aquatic organisms, methylated forms are more readily accumulated due to their high lipophilicity and normally account for greater than 80% of the total body burden. Food chain biomagnification of mercury, coupled with slow elimination rates, results in high mercury burdens in top predator organisms.
Mercury is used in gold mining as an amalgamate to separate fine gold particles from other mineral components in processed ore/gravel.
People engaged in small scale mining may be exposed to high concentrations of mercury by inhaling the fumes arising from the burning of the amalgam in pans or furnaces. Exposure of indigenous peoples to naturally elevated mercury levels in their aquatic food resources has also been shown, and attributed to high dietary intakes of top-of-the-food chain fish species.
Mercury analyses of multimedia can be carried out on effluents, water, soils, aquatic sediments, plants, fish, animals, and human scalp hair, urine, and blood.
EnviroGulf Consulting subcontracts ilocally or nternationally-registered analytical laboratories to conduct mercury analyses. The separate determination of inorganic from organic mercury compounds in environmental samples is required for assessing biotransformation and evaluating environmental fate, behaviour, and pathways:
The following types of mercury analysis can be undertaken:
- Total mercury (unfiltered and determined by cold vapour AAS).
- Methylmercury (monomethyl + dimethyl mercury).
- Dissolved reactive mercury (filtered through 0.4 µm pressure filter and determined by SnCl2 reduction, comprising inorganic and organically complexed mercury species).
- Dissolved organomercury (filtered through 0.4 µm pressure filter and determined by difference).
EnviroGulf Consulting offers the following services:
- Critical review of existing mercury databases.
- Design, implementation and execution of surveys to define environmental mercury contamination.
- Direction of multidisciplinary team (scientists and medical) for combined epidemiological and mercury contamination surveys.
- Determination of the degree of exposure occurring in communities surrounding point and diffuse sources of mercury emission.
- Determination of pathways contributing most to mercury exposure.
- Determination of relative impact of current emissions versus environmental mercury accumulated from historical releases.
- Development of statistically designed sampling and monitoring programs to establish baseline and post-project values.
- Design and implementation of dietary intake and exposure surveys.
- Preparation of mercury reviews and technical reports based on the above.
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